How interesting to see a reporter in the car industry’s favourite newspaper, Automotive News, naming this year’s Detroit motor show as one of the best and most interesting in the US for years.
Found myself thinking exactly the same, for a variety of disparate reasons. First, the whole thing was shorn of the usual distracting and low-rent razzamatazz. Everything that was shown seemed to have true significance.
In the run-up to the show there was comment about the cold Detroit weather (it was 15C below at times) matching the mood of the show, but my experience was that – once you had dispensed with the usual weary credit-crunch platitudes – people were as keen to talk cars as ever.
Second, the cars were good. No daft concepts going nowhere. The Volvo concept showed off the coming S60. The VW concept roadster was so desirable you wanted to drive it home. The new Jags looked terrific. So did the Merc E-class and the new Lexus hybrid.
Third, there was a curious feeling of relief that at least we had now found the low level at which the industry is going to have to operate for a while.
One industry boss told me that US car sales were currently so low that if they stayed at that level it would take 25 years to replace the whole car park – to swap the entire fleet of cars on US roads with new metal. That’s a situation which is clearly unsustainable, he told me – the industry needs a figure of roughly half that to sustain itself.